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Hospital vicariously liable for medical negligence committed by its Doctors

Maharaja Agrasen Hospital & Ors. vs. Master Rishabh Sharma & Ors. with Pooja Sharma & Ors vs. Maharaja Agrasen Hospital & Ors.
Civil Appellate Jurisdiction Civil Appeal No. 6619 of 2016 with Civil Appeal No. 9461 of 2019 (Arising out of Diary No. 15393 of 2019)
Bench: Justices Uday Umesh Lalit and Indu Malhotra
Decided on: 16th December, 2019
Brief Facts of the case:

In the case of Maharaja Agrasen Hospital v. Master Rishabh Sharma, any acts of negligence committed by the doctors who are empanelled to provide medical care and are affiliated to hospitals, the hospitals shall be held vicariously liable, observed the Supreme Court of India. The Hon’ble Supreme Court, also said that all hospitals, whether Government or private are liable to maintain the medical records, and provide the same to patient or their attendants within 72 hours of the request.

Justice Uday Umesh Lalit along with Justice Indu Malhotra as a bench upheld the NCDRC order in order to hold a hospital vicariously liable for the negligent medical acts of doctors who allegedly failed to perform the compulsory check up of Retinopathy during a pre-term of a premature baby that leads to total blindness.

The court referred the Bolam Test i.e. which was established in the case of Arun Kumar Manglik v. Chirayu Health and Medicare Ltd. any doctors or medical professionals failing to prove that they have taken reasonable and due care of the pre-mature baby, and other judgments on medical negligence and observed the mandate screening and checking up for ROP. The court stated,

“A medical professional should be alert to the hazards and risks in any professional task he undertakes to the extent that other ordinarily competent members of the profession would be alert. He must bring to any task he undertakes reasonable skill that other ordinarily competent members of his profession would bring”

The Bench awarded a compensation of Rs 76,00,000/- to the Aggrieved and his mother and further held that “the grant of compensation to remedy the wrong of medical negligence is within the realm of law of torts. The said principle provides that a person is entitled to damages which should as nearly as possible get that sum of money which would put him in the same position as he would have been if he had not sustained the wrong.”

The bench also issued directions on utilization of the amount and further stated that, “it is common experience that when a patient goes to a hospital, he/she goes there on account of reputation of the hospital, and with the hope that due and proper care will be taken by the hospital authorities. If the hospital fails to discharge their duties through doctors, being employed on job basis or employed on job basis or employed on contract basis, it is the hospital which has to justify the acts of commission or omission on behalf of their doctors”

The court further stated the following acts shall comprise the act of medical negligence:

  • A legal duty to exercise due care on the part of the medical professional;
  • Failure to inform the patient of the risks involved;
  • The patient suffers damage as a consequence of the undisclosed risk by the medical professional;
  • If the risk had been disclosed, the patient would have avoided the injury;
  • Breach of the said duty would give rise to an actionable claim of negligence.

Damage, is an essential ingredient of tort and when the damage occurs the cause of action of negligence shall come into the picture. The burden of proof in the complaint of medical negligence is on the complainant to prove that there was a breach of duty, injury and causation. The injury should be sufficiently proximate to the medical practitioner’s breach of duty. If the evidence is missing to the contrary adduced by the opposite party, an inference of causation will be drawn even if the positive or scientific proof is lacking.

The neglect in exercising a reasonable degree of skill and knowledge to the patient, to whom he owes a duty of care, which has resulted in injury to such person is actionable medical negligence. In order to adjudge whether medical professional is to be charged as negligent or not it is required to see if while performing the duty, he is acting as an ordinary prudent and competent person exercising his ordinary skill in the profession. The law does not expect extremes of exercising his care, it requires neither very highest not a very low degree of care and competence to adjudge whether the medical profession is negligent or not.

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Divya Patwal


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